From constantly listening to his grandparent’s Steve Martin comedy vinyl record when he was 8, to producing a live sketch comedy show in college, to cracking jokes with Will Ferrell in Los Angeles, 22-year-old Chris Copen returns to his Pittsburgh roots to manage a new Dormont comedy theater, Dad’s Basement.
“Pittsburgh has a really cool vibrant scene I would say. And we are really excited to take our place in it,” says Copen, who will serve as creative director of Dad’s Basement.
The grand opening of the comedy theater at Dad’s Basement will be held on Oct. 9 during the Dormont Music and Street Fair
with an in-house produced show.
Heading downstairs to the comedy theater of the Dormont storefront
, guests will be transported to what resembles a 1970s conversation pit. Purple hued lights, lava lamps, and vintage snack signs will fill the basement when construction is complete.
The stage where performances will be held sits in the main room of the basement and will have an audience capacity of 45 people. Two other rooms are included in the basement — a concession stand where snacks and merchandise are sold, and a writing room for the creators of the shows held at the theater.
Although Dad’s Basement is labeled as a comedy club, Copen said they plan to do shows outside of sketch comedy as well. With their current number of nine writers, Copen said some are working on sketch comedy shows while others are writing original plays and a performance that resembles a late night talk show.
Since Copen was a child, he was enthralled with comedy. As he got older, his interest slowly trickled into his career path. In 2019, Copen left Pittsburgh to spend his summer in LA where he interned at Mosaic Media Group giving him the opportunity to spend time with major faces of comedy like Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow.
Copen explained that Dad’s Basement will showcase more than just their self-produced shows like incorporating out-of-town guest performers. For example, popular New York based comedy sketch group PLEASE DON'T DESTROY
will hit the Dormont stage in late October.
As for the creation of the in-house productions, Copen describes using it as an “incubator” for those in college or recent graduates that are interested in writing or performing in shows.
“For people in that period between school and having a career you know, when you don't really know what you're doing,” says Copen. “But, you know, we’ll take anyone that’s talented and wants to be involved.”
Before heading downstairs in Dad’s Basement where the comedy theater is located, the entrance floor, which opened in February, welcomes guests to shop in a gallery filled with nostalgic collectibles ranging from sports cards to celebrity autographs.
Both the comedy theater and collectibles shop that creates Dad’s Basement is owned by brother duo Jake and Jared Berlin. They had the idea to open a collectibles storefront as collecting has been a passion in their lives since they were kids, and they wanted to extend their hobby to others with similar interests in person rather than online.
“I thought the mixed use of the building would be unique to Pittsburgh and provide entertainment that doesn't exist elsewhere,” Jake said.
Jake knew he wanted to transform the basement of the Dormont
storefront into a comedy theater, and the first person to come to his mind to direct the installation was Copen as they both shared a love for comedy and improv.
Jake met Copen when they both attended Point Park University in 2018. Copen was creating Point Blank Live, a live sketch comedy show written and performed by Point Park students, which Jake appeared in.
During Copen’s time in LA, he attended numerous comedy clubs so when Jake proposed the idea of one in Pittsburgh, Copen said yes without hesitation.
“I’m really excited to have this opportunity to build something,” Copen said. “ It’s going to be super cool, and I really think people are going to love it.”
Dad's Basement: 1521 Potomac Ave., Dormont. dadsbasementcomedy.com